As the popularity of athletics in Botswana continues to soar, the upcoming IAAF World Championships billed for August 4 in London could break the ceiling as Botswana looks set to field a strong team with pedigree. The probability curve shapes well in favour of local athletes come August.
Botswana has not won a medal at the championships since the 2011 edition in Daegu, South Korea. But with the current team, chances are that the barren years may be brought to a screeching halt – with the possibility of winning a medal almost approaching actuality.
The country has relied on the heroics of the experienced Isaac Makwala and Amantle Montsho for some time, but the emerging sensations in Baboloki Thebe, Karabo Sibanda; and of course the resurgence of a rejuvenated Nijel Amos; as well as the enterprise of Onkabetse Nkobolo is demonstration that athletics Botswana has upped the tempo.
Botswana has fielded the cream of the lot for years especially in the 400m and 4x400m relay, and if recent records are anything to go by, it looks likely that global medals loom large on the horizon especially for the men’s senior relay team (4x400m), 400m and 800m categories.
The 4X400m Men’s Relay
The men’s 4x400m team is optimistic about this year’s prospects, following a strong global appearance and clocking 3:02.28, a Season’s Best (SB) in April’s IAAF World Relays in Bahamas. Even though a 2nd place finish was somewhat heart breaking for Batswana who yearned for pole finish in Nassau, it was an encouraging achievement because Botswana finally toppled the USA and its highly experienced former World Champion Lashawn Merritt, as well as Grenada’s Kirani James and possibly 400m whiz kid Wayde Van Neikerk in London. The athletes proved to have given it their best shot, finishing in podium position for the first time in Bahamas.
With Nkobolo and Makwala rearing to go, this gives team Botswana significant depth. One ambition for the aging Makwala is to decorate his glittering career with a global World medal and so are the red-hot young talents’ bids to consolidate their trade among top athletes at a global stage.
According to an experienced athletics coach, Oabona Theetso, Botswana’s 4x400m, men’s relay team, Thebe (400m) and Amos (800m) both stand a chance of going up on the ranks by winning a medal at the World championships. In an interview he said there has never been a better time where medals look set like this year. “The relay team will definitely notch a medal, given their season’s best at Bahamas and the individual performance of 400m – we should really be hopeful for a medal,” he explained.
Thebe: The 400m race marvel
In the 400m race, all factors remaining constant, Thebe is the only front-runner who is ready to mount serious pressure on both Merritt and Van Neikerk. The fast developing athlete is best paced to bring back a second medal (any) from the global spectacle.
In his last diamond league race, the 20 year old who is occupying the second spot in the Diamond League standings with 7 points clocked 44:02 in Lausanne. The times are impressive though the sprinting world record holder, Neikerk definitely looks poised for gold. He did an astonishing 43:62 in his latest race with Thebe and Makwala coming behind him. Another challenge for Thebe would be the US sprinter, Merritt who outran him in May at the Eugene meet. Merritt clocked 44:79 while thebe showed up a few seconds later with 44:95.
According to Theetso, Van Niekerk is the biggest threat for the local boys at the IAAF meet. “Our boys will have to break a sweat if they are to beat him, it shows that he (Van Niekerk) has been working on sprints considering the time he clocked in his 400m race,” said the coach. Makwala could be the dark horse in the race having clocked 44:08 last week in Lausanne.
Nonetheless Merritt has proven not be much of a threat as age is catching up with him. The last time the 31 year old was on track was in May and his mentors are perhaps sparing him the fatigue of competing in various races. “The only threat is Wayne (Neikerk),” Theetso reiterated.
As for Sibanda, who is experiencing an amazing season start; there is fear that his hamstring injury might stand on his way of him winning any medal. The sprinter has yet to be examined by specialists to fully assess the injury. His last performance was two months back where he couldn’t finish the race owing to the injury. He, however might get to share in the glory if the relay team out performs other for podium finish.
800m: Nijel bounces back…
Olympics silver medallist, Amos has perhaps returned to his former glory, following a few upsets in some recent past competitions. “He is picking up at the right time, which is good for him and the nation,” Theetso highlighted. In Lausanne ‘Zorro’ clocked 800m world leading time (1:43) which certainly assures him of a medal. His rival David Rudisha is doing his preparations behind the scenes, but this shouldn’t disturb Amos, as his time speaks for him, the coach reckons.
For the female athletes, Montsho remains the only experienced runner of all. Since her fall from grace in 2015, a lot has changed in the 400m race. She clocked 49:56 in 2011 and the time hardly assures of any medal. Her preparations have been below par competing only in local meets clocking 52:02. Since then she has never been any active. However, prospect, Lydia Jele has proven to be the only candidate to surprise the world and probably bring a medal home.
The Botswana national boxing team recently returned from the zone 4 championship held in Mozambique. The team was led by head coach Thebe Setlalekgosi, two assistant coaches, Gibson Rauwe and Pearl Mooketsi. Two referees and judges, Gaseitsewe Ponatshego and Linda Mooketsi.
In the women’s category, Lethabo Modukanele was representing Botswana in the 48 kg division, while Phekie Bele and Sadie Kenosi were competing in the 57 kg and 60 kg categories, respectively. In the men’s category, Kobamelo Molatlhegi was representing the country in the 52 kg division, while Rajab Mahomed was competing in the under 51 kg category.George Molwantwa was competing for under 57 kg category and Treasure Moremi was competing for under 60kg category.
The boxers came home with seven medals, Modukanele came home with a gold medal, Kenosi, Rajab, Molatlhegi all came home with silver medals. While Moremi, Molwantwa and Phekie Bele all came home with bronze medals.
According to Moitshepi Nkabiti, the public relations officer of the Botswana Boxing Association, the team performed well and that they were hoping that Rajab would also bring home a gold medal. However, due to an eye injury, he could not participate in the finals.
He stated that, “though some people might think that how our team performed is not an achievement it is a big achievement to us. Other countries came with 19 boxers while we only came with our seven boxers, and they all came back with medals. That is something that we have to be proud of I really commend them for their performance. Having 5 players making it to the finals is really a blessing and we should not take it for granted.”
According to Nkabiti, Botswana was ranked fourth in the zone 4 championship, which was held in Mozambique. Other countries that participated in the tournament included South Africa, Zambia, Eswatini, and Seychelles. They all had a total of 19 boxers. Lesotho also had eight boxers.
The first Mascom Charity Cup spectacular has come and gone. The football event played at Obed Itani Chilume Stadium saw four football clubs playing one-day tourney with various charity centres being beneficiaries of the gate takings.
While the attendance was not at the expected level, it is said that the sponsor has made a killing with close to P500 000 made from voting lines. Football followers were asked to vote for teams of their choice, and top four clubs were eligible to play. A single sms voting line cost P 1.50.
Gaborone United became the most voted team with 62 984 votes followed by Security Systems with 51 027. On the third spot was BDF XI with 48 596 votes while Orapa United came forth with 44 401. Shockingly, Township Rollers did not make it after gathering a total of 30 637 votes, with BR Highlanders ahead of them having seen 44 204 votes to their name.
It is said, however that, the initiative live to expectation as clubs together with the sponsor have managed to assist charities of their choices. Mascom is believed to be happy for identifying beneficiaries and getting value for their money.
The mobile network company is still the longest standing partners of local football, having first tasted waters in 2005. The company now powers the Top 8 competition and said to have renewed the dame sponsorship at a value not exceeding 18 million. The Mascom Charity Cup was not the first to be hosted by a mobile network company.
In 2018, Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) hosted a similar event in which followers had to vote. The four participating teams were Mochudi Center Chiefs, Gaborone United, Orapa United and Township Rollers. GU were the eventual winners.
It is however not clear if the tournament will continue in the next football calendar, but what goes down into the history books is that Teenage Mpote and Orapa United were the first to win it. In previous years, there have been an off season tournament whose aim was meant for charity purposes. The tourney was called Kabelano Charity Cup and was usually played by four big teams (Rollers, Notwane, GU and Chiefs) without taking the voting routes. It was last hosted in 2015 and had Barclays as the sponsors.
Yet another thrilling showdown is expected between the country’s hottest strikers, Thabang Sesinyi of Jwaneng Galaxy and Thataoyaone Kgamanyane of Gaborone United, as the duo are eyeing for the 2021/2022 Golden boot.
With only four Botswana Premier League (BPL) games left, the race for the honours is rolling towards a thrilling climax, but for two individuals there is a race for an accolade of their own taking place that could easily go down to the final minutes of the season. Leading the pack with 19 goals is Jwaneng Galaxy talisman, Sesinyi who is one goal apart from Kgamanyane who has netted 18 goals thus far.
Both players have their eye on the golden boot, hoping that their respective teams have fixtures to put them in with a realistic chance of catching up, or leaving the other behind. The Money Machine is currently at the summit of the BPL log with 61 points while the mining giant, Galaxy are trailing on the third place with 49 points, having played 24 games thus far.
Both teams (GU and Galaxy) are expected to face each other towards the end of the season, as the initial fixture was postponed due to Galaxy’s involvement in CAF championship group stages. With 19 goals chalked up for the season so far, Sesinyi is just one goal away from Kgamanyane who led the race for the better part of the campaign. Sesinyi who is on freakish scoring form has scored four goals in his last two games; a hat trick against Prisons XI and a goal against Sua Flamingoes in the midweek fixture.
But there is no doubt that Sesinyi is no longer playing to carry his team, Galaxy, as realistically there is a slim chance for them to clinch the 2021/2022 season, but he is eyeing the Golden Boot Award when the league falls off.
Kgamanyane has begun the season in tremendous form; scoring every time he is given a chance, while Sesinyi, on the other hand, reached the peak of his form in the second round of the season; scoring both in the domestic league and also on the CAF Champions’ league group stage. He featured on team of the week on February.
Furthermore, the Money Machine attacker showed some growth as his conversion rate has been on a rising graph in the games he has so far played. Although Kgamanyane’s goal scoring prowess has been there for everyone to see, the player has been hampered by injuries. It promises to be a fascinating battle between the duo.
Meanwhile, BPL this week announced that they will hold the 2021/2022 awards. The league has since added seven new categories to take the total number of categories to 16. Among some new categories are the Defender of the Season and Midfielder of the Season awards. There are also two more awards for the administrators, as the league has included Team Manager of the Season and the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Season awards.
The best performing players in this campaign will be included in the Premier League Best XI. Nevertheless, match day officials have also been recognised with the introduction of two more categories in the young Referee of the Season and the Female Referee of the Season. Furthermore, BFL CEO Solomon Ramochotlhwane indicated that the awards will be held on the 25 June 2022, just after the 2021-2022 season comes to an end.